I’ve been an advocate for a robust bicycle sharing system since I first used BIXI system in Montreal. BIXI was how I got around the city core during my four day visit. Recently, Minneapolis hosted a delegation of Austinites and they introduced us to their Nice Bike system. Yours truly ended up in a photo.
It’s my belief that a bike share system should be an integral part of the transit discussion. For distances of less than 1 mile, these are cost-effective systems of getting urban-Austinites and visitors where they want to get to. A large bike sharing network is also superb recreational amenity.
Yesterday, I was excited to visit City Hall to checkout the B-Cycle shared bicycle program demo. This system is currently in place in Denver, though it has fewer stations than the Nice Bike or BIXI system in Minneapolis and Montreal, respectively.
All of these systems use a three-geared bike that’s easy to use. The bikes include a basket and a lock. The ergonomics encourage a leisurely and comfortable ride. From the B-Cycle FAQ, we learn that fees to use the system can be specified by the city or promoter, but usually include an annual, monthly, weekly, daily and single use fees. In Denver, a 24 hour membership cost $5. This doesn’t mean you rent the bike for 24 hours. Rather, for 24 hours, you can quickly pickup/drop off bikes at any station. The first 30 minutes are free, subsequent 30 minutes have escalating fees.
Bike sharing systems like B-Cycle market themselves as being scalable, and therefor easy to buy into. However, the utility of these systems grows along with the number of stations. A modest investment in too few stations, or poorly located stations, could result in under-adoption and quickly be the death of the system.
For a city that likes to be outside and champions a progressive pace of life, the future is bright for bike sharing in Austin.